Ponca to Pruitt via Buffalo River Trail

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Buffalo National River

Ponca to Pruitt via Buffalo River Trail is a 24.3 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Ponca, Arkansas that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Horses are also able to use this trail.

Length24.3 miElevation gain3,438 ftRoute typePoint to point
BackpackingCampingFishingHikingHorseback ridingNature tripsForestRiverViewsWaterfallWildflowersWildlifeRockyNo dogs
Description
Waypoints (1)
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Great camping spots at Horseshoe Bend. You can hike all day on quiet trails, only running into the occasional hiker, and make camp by the river at night. Great trail.

Steel Creek Ranger Station, 870-861-2570.

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Reviews (99)
Photos (347)
Recordings (54)
Completed (313)
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Brock Littles
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HikingGreat!
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Stephen Wait
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Hiking
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Jimbo 138
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BackpackingRocky

was very dry when we did it. I really enjoyed the trail

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Allen Williams
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Hiking

Good training hike!

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Kevin Tosie
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Hiking
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Nick Gleason
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Hiking

Only did the 4 miles from the horse camp up to the overlook but had a great time. Lots of great rock formations and the leaves are turning for fall. Would have gone further but only had a babysitter for so long. Glad we did this one without our kids because some of the trail is pretty narrow and I’d imagine it would get pretty overgrown in the summer.

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David Menke
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Hiking
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David Menke
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Hiking
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Monse Fabian
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BackpackingBugsOver grownRockyScramble
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David Evans
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Hiking

Did a short hike from Ponca to Steel Creek today. Overall, a great hike. A few bugs, wet trail because of heavy rain yesterday. The spring growth is starting to close in on the trail is a couple of spots. Some trail maintenance needs to be done near Steel Creek (large trees fallen across the trail).

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Amber G.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 27, 2020
Hiking

Hiked from Boxley to Pruitt in mid-March. I didn’t use any of the actual guidebooks when I was planning the trip, just studied the maps and read about other people’s hikes, but I would use one in the future, as they could’ve only added to my experience. Since the trail only reaches the river a handful of times, the only concern I had, going in, was the availability of water from the seasonal sources. We’d had plenty of rain in the previous weeks, but I didn’t “know” for sure. I had no need to worry, as there was water almost EVERYWHERE. I brought a liter when I dry camped, but never carried more than that. As others have noted, the trail is definitely a mud walk in many places, the kind of mud that your whole foot sinks into - so you’ve been warned. The upside to this was the dozens and dozens of beautiful water features everywhere. Creeks, waterfalls, cascades, streams, boulder chutes, springs, etc. - they were all gorgeous and flowing well. The numerous crossings resulted in my feet staying wet for the entire trip, though, so be prepared for that. The plants and trees were beginning to green up, but I still had fantastic views. The bugs weren’t out in full force yet, but I did come across some spiders, flies, mosquitoes, winged stinging creatures, and such. Not enough yet for insect repellent. There’s definitely plenty of evidence of feral hogs, and I did encounter several of them around 4 miles past Ponca. They were around the size of an English bulldog, and while at least one of them took notice of me, they seemed to have no interest in what I was doing, and I walked past them without a problem. I’d love to do this hike again, but I’d like to read a guidebook or two so I could fully appreciate everything I encountered. I definitely wouldn’t want to go in high summer, though. Climbing up those hills in the heat and humidity of the summer months sounds like a nightmare!

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David Saugey
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Hiking

We hiked from Erbie to Pruitt - 8.6 miles. Erbie Trailhead is accessed by County Road 2500 (old 79) gravel but good and Pruitt on State Highway 7. The bridge on State Highway 7 is being replaced and construction will occur there for another year but this will not impact your ability to park at the Pruitt trailhead. Of the four segments (day hikes from TH to TH) we hiked from Boxley to Pruitt this was the second best hike. There are a good number of areas where the trail crosses cedar glades and there will be water in the trail after a recent rain - the soil is thin and once saturated, drains into the trail tread. In places it is slippery and mucky. Much of this segment skirts along the bluff top right above the Buffalo River but alas there are so many trees there is "almost" never a clear view of the river or bluffs. Adair Cemetery was an interesting spot and the Ozark Campground has restrooms and the bluffs there are beautiful. The restrooms at Pruitt are closed for the winter but the town of Jasper is just a few miles south where you can get fuel and good food right on the town square. The trail is marked with white rectangles and wooden signs and, although few and far between, they occur at the right spots. The trail tread is well established and you won't get lost. You will encounter "ORT" signs designating the "Old River Trail" but that trail is best hiked in summer since multiple crossing of the river must occur. On this segment of the "BRT", Buffalo River Trail, you will not cross the river. You will encounter bluffs, rock outcrops and many side streams with beautiful boulders, cascades and waterfalls. We hiked 2 days after a significant rain and all water features were really flowing. I recommend the book, "Buffalo River Handbook," Second Edition (2018) by Kenneth L. Smith, for in-depth info about the National River and a step-by-step of the trail. Also, National Geographic's map "Buffalo National River West" has good road designation, trailhead location and other information useful in planning your hike. Alltrails has excellent information about this trail and nearby trails too. Happy Hiking!

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David Stinchcomb
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 7, 2020
Hiking

We did this section over 3 days, January 4-6, going Ponca to Kyle's Landing, then Kyle's to Erbie and finished with Erbie to Pruitt. The first day was hard but the other two were much easier with much smaller climbs. There are many great views of the Buffalo River, the bluffs and many cool rock formations along the way. On day 1 as you near Camp Orr Rd you can hear the Twin Falls below you but we didn't detour to see them. The trail is mostly easy to follow with blazes at important junctions with roads and other trails. There are several stream crossings but none very deep, but could be more challenging after a hard rain. Camping at Kyle's and Erbie is good. Highly recommend!

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Ben Ben Davis
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Hiking

To all the reviewers stating the trail is overgrown: its summer in Arkansas, of course everything is overgrown.

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Mervin Jebaraj
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HikingBugs

Pruitt to Ozark: trail is covered in several places by overgrown plants and brush. Ticks and cobwebs all along the trail. Views of the river are very limited.

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Ian Armstrong
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BackpackingMuddy

Arguably the best the Ozarks has to offer.

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Big Bease
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HikingMuddy

This was really a beautiful trail. My friend and I did this over 3 days. This was my first backpacking experience. It was difficult at times, but one you get 3 miles east from Kyles landing it really flattens out and the trail does a good job of mixing in uphill/downhill/flat to cycle your muscles. We did go when it had just rained, it was really muddy in sections, but it wasn’t bad if you have waterproof boots. Some sections the trail was quite narrow with steep embankment on each side- 14ish miles in from Ponca. There were a bunch of ticks on the trail, but what do you expect from spring time in Arkansas. There is also a ton of poison ivy all along the trail. Make sure and wear long pants and tall socks! The reason I gave this a 4 star is because I thought there could have been some better landscape views/river views built into the trail. Most of the trail was not along bluffs, so you can’t just bushwhack and find the edge and get a view. There are a couple of spots where you walk down and you get to see the river, but not as many as I was expecting. I hoped there were more access points to camp along the river (and maybe there are if you follow the Old River Trail (ORT)...but the water was up and crossing the Buffalo was not an option for us. The landscape was mostly forest with a lot of stream/creek crossings (only had to change to water shoes 2 times with high top boots). Heavily shaded so it was really nice and cool. Very pretty and not many people after steel creek, but we didn’t see anyone else after kyles landing. Wildlife spotted: 1 rabbit 5 deer 1 red ear slider turtle 8+ soft shell turtles spotted from a bluff down in the river 1 6” rink neck snake Dozens of large snails An adolescent mountain lion hiding back in a cave. Birds of all sorts We did hear an elk one night, but no sightings.

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Wes Jordan
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HikingMuddy

Great hike! We camped at Ozark campground the night before we started hiking. The campground was great, plenty of room and it's on the river with a nice bluff. It's only about 5 minutes from the trail head in Pruitt. We started in Pruitt the next morning and hiked about 15 miles where we camped at the top of twin falls waterfall. The next day we hiked the rest of the way to Ponca where we camped on an overlook with a beautiful view of the river. During the hiking phase it rained for about 26 hours straight, but it was still great. The next morning we met up with Buffalo River Outfitters to get the raft we rented. The river was at flood stage the previous day so there were plenty of rapids. Unfortunately, we were only allowed to take the raft to Kyle's Landing and not all they way back to Pruitt. At Kyle's landing were able to get a ride back to the truck from the nicest park ranger, Linda. She went out of her way to take me the opposite direction of where she was originally going in order to get me to my truck. Thanks Linda! You can take the canoes and kayaks all the way from Ponca to Pruitt. This is a great way to make the round trip.

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Chris Becraft
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Hiking

We did 10 miles out and back for a total of 20 as part of our training for rim-to-rim at the Grand Canyon later this month. We started at Ponca and did the hardest part of the trail twice. The elevation gains were extremely challenging. We absolutely LOVED this trail. The views and the various waterfalls were awesome. We had to cross at least 2 small creeks which only added to the entire experience. I would highly recommend the trail to any experienced hiker or anyone looking for a challenge. The 20 miles took us right at 10 hours with several breaks. 10 miles from Ponca took us right to the river for lunch and it was great to put our feet into the river! The trail is very well marked and everyone we met along the path was super friendly.

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brandon burge
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Hiking

day 3

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Rob Seymour
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Hiking

Did a section of this trail as an O&B.

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K G
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 25, 2019
BackpackingRockyScramble

This is a beautiful trail, a lot of uphill between Steel Creek and Kyles. There are some areas where the trail drops off steep on one side, creepy! Some climbing/scrambling up, if you’re not tall enough to make the step. Probably not what most people call scrambling but, I had to climb. What a trek! If you think you’re out of shape, you’ll know for sure, soon enough! It was hard but, worth the accomplishment! The views are awesome! We took the BRT from Ponca to Kyles. Then, the ORT back to Steel Creek- lots of river crossing on the ORT. Got a shuttle from Steel Creek to Ponca, due to water levels. *Buffalo Outdoor Center and Lost Valley Canoe, in Ponca, do shuttles, fyi.

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shane mcateer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 12, 2019
Hiking

Would anyone have any information on a shuttle service to drive from Pruitt to Ponca or Boxley valley for drop off of the BRT? Would love to hike from Boxley Valley to Pruitt or Maybe Ponca to Pruitt.

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B.A. Hollis
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Backpacking

The most beautiful trail In the state. One of my favorite places to be.

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Scott Phillips
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 18, 2018
Backpacking

I hike this after two days of good rain and it was gorgeous. All the dry creek beds you’re used to passing over were transformed into gushing waterfalls. The river was up and loud. The trail is not easy so take your time and enjoy yourself. Markings are prominent enough where you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way.

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Jenn Riggs
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 11, 2018
Backpacking

We hiked from Boxley to Pruitt (roughly 37 miles) from June 6-9. It was hot and tick-filled but a great backpacking trip! The trail was a bit overgrown in some parts, but still pretty easy to navigate--a good amount of blazes helped! Lots of already established backcountry campsites. Sadly, campers before us did not do a good job practicing LNT principles :-( Quite a few creek beds were dry but we were still able to find a good amount of water.

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